Police confront protesters in Meah Shearim
Police confront protesters in Meah Shearim Israel news photo: Flash 90

This week’s riots in Meah Shearim over the arrest of a hareidi student were “just a promo,” Rabbi Tuvia Shulzinger warned, speaking to Arutz Sheva.

Rabbi Shulzinger, a student of Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, was among the organizers of the protests. If hareidi-religious young men continue to face arrest for failing to enlist in the IDF, it could spark a world-wide protest, he warned.

“I’m in touch with the leaders of hareidi Jewry in exile, in the United States and Europe, and all the Torah sages are in an uproar,” he said. “There have been urgent meetings. There’s going to be a worldwide campaign like nothing Israel has ever seen.”

A global protest against mandatory enlistment could include an economic boycott, he said. “We know rich Jews around the world who support the state of Israel, who buy Israel bonds, who have investments here. They’ll withdraw from everything,” he said. “It will be a domino effect.”

“If they hit us where it hurts, we’ll do the same,” he warned.

There are thousands of yeshiva students who would rather go to jail than enlist in the IDF, he said. “The state of Israel is openly working today to take yeshiva students and forcibly stop their Torah studies. It won’t happen,” he declared.

“What Ben-Gurion understood sixty years ago, Netanyahu does not understand. But he will understand,” he added.

Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, agreed to allow a handful of full-time yeshiva students to indefinitely defer military service. The exemption became commonplace, and was later formally instituted under the Tal Law - allowing thousands of hareidi men avoid the draft each year by claiming to be engaged in full-time Torah study. However, in 2012 the controversial Tal Law was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, and is set to be replaced by a bill calling for all but a select few of hareidi students to be enlisted into IDF or National Service.

The center-left Yesh Atid party’s 2013 election campaign focused in part on a call to require hareidi men to perform military service. The party won 19 seats in the elections, becoming the Knesset’s second-largest faction overnight. 

Hareidi-religious leaders have spoken out against requiring full-time Torah students to enlist. The community values Torah study as a top priority in life, and believes that Jews who study Torah help bring divine protection to the entire nation of Israel.